Borders and Sovereignty

The Borders and Sovereignty theme concentrates on the concept of modern sovereignty and state formation while emphasizing practices of border and identitarian crossing. While giving priority to the Middle East, our discussions will advance a broad interdisciplinary and comparative analysis in terms of geographical and historical context, considering diverse attitudes and perspectives so as to challenge existing knowledge production. Among the principal areas of interest are national, ethnic and religious conflicts, social relations between citizens and non-citizens, and globalization processes that challenge state sovereignty.


In a world in which immigration, cultural flows, and global trade agreements call into question the inevitability of the state, sovereignty and borders become an important site through which to rethink the necessary link between political units, law and territory. If today state logic is associated above all with the separation and division of populations, social harm and injustices, we will begin by re-examining the histories of harmful differences as well as identifying political practices that challenge identitarian distinctions by offering new concepts of law, freedom, and equality. If such alternative practices do indeed exist, how are we to understand their relation to the state, and how are we to conceptualize the difference between the Law and alternative local norms? Further, looking closely at the concept of borders, we will question the reasoning behind territorial divisions and the discourse of security. 


Possible questions and topics for discussion:


1.     What are the processes through which people are made into national, ethnic and religious groups and why do such processes lead to eruptions of violence, or to relations of domination that rest on structural violence?


2.     Under what conditions do practices that challenge territorial and identitarian divisions take place, and what are the reasons that such practices succeed or fail in establishing new norms of freedom and equality? 


3.     How do alternative political practices challenge the legal ubiquity of the state, and can they do so without always-already presupposing its structures? Can such practices learn from the capacity for ethnic and legal diversity of imperial forms?


4.     How does the global order challenge state sovereignty and its ability to guarantee the freedom and equality of its citizens?


5.     If every political organization presupposes a limit and a border, what are the meaning and significance of practices that challenge territorial and identitarian divisions?

What are the ways in which works of art think borders, freedom and equality in a global world?